Clean, or happy?

Before we moved to Costa Rica, we learned that we could find someone to clean the house for about a dollar an hour. I was ecstatic. Back home, I cleaned when company was coming. It’s not that I don’t love cleaning— it’s just that there was always something I’d rather do.

For our first six months here, we rented a place along with my daughter, her husband, and my granddaughter Maiya. Bonnie was expecting my second grandchild, and wasn’t in the mood to clean, and I was finally retired. Truth be told, we were a lot alike in our aversion to housework, but we needn’t have worried. The owners of the house had included weekly cleaning in the 250 dollars a month we paid.

Yes, it’s amazing. Just the idea of renting a house in the country for so little put a lift in my final days of work. I dreamed a life of leisure, stopping just short of the grape-feeding scene. But the reality didn’t live up to the dream. You’re probably wondering, what could be wrong with free housecleaning?

For one thing, we had to vacate the house while not one, but two neighbor ladies mopped the floors and moved all of our stuff around. Then we exchanged places. While they waltzed around the patio with rags under their feet, we returned to the house to search for our relocated possessions. We felt like we were being invaded every time they showed up.

When we moved across town to the house where we live now, a friend recommended a neighbor lady to clean. I don’t know why, but I often need to learn things the hard way, and so I agreed.

Let’s call the cleaning lady Lola. I saw right away she didn’t go in for cleaning under things, or behind them. I didn’t care. Her cleaning was better than nothing, and the price was right. If you didn’t look in the corners, or behind the doors, the place looked great.

I just wanted to sit in front of my computer and write,–alas– Lola had other ideas. She wanted to sit and chat. I’ll just pretend she’s my Spanish tutor, I told myself, but that didn’t work for me.

She came on Mondays and Thursdays. Soon, Sunday and Wednesday nights I’d go to bed and think, “Oh no. Lola’s coming tomorrow.” I began manufacturing excuses to leave the house. I would have liked to let her go, but I was a coward, and, I reminded myself, the floors and windows were cleaner than they’d ever been at home.

Towards the end of the year she began to finish after a couple of hours, and ask to go home early. Though we paid her by the hour, I was happy to be rid of her early, till she said she’d like to work less hours for more money.

I knew this was my chance. I geared up my courage and I told her the truth, sort of: we were on a fixed income, the dollar had lost a large chunk of it’s value, and prices had gone up since we’d arrived– and I gave her an extra two weeks pay. Why mention the terrible cleaning? The angst? Turns out Lola really didn’t want to work, and said so. What a relief.

Now I’m back to cleaning when we have company, and guess what? I don’t care.

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About Myra

I'm retired in Costa Rica, having lived in Philly, State College, Salem Mass, and Kawagoe Japan. You might call me a career gypsy, but my last and best job was teaching English to some of the best and brightest kids in Philly. I'm new to blogging and websites, and will probably make all the mistakes there are, but now I'm sharing my writing. I moved to Costa Rica in June of 2009 with my husband Jack, my dog Buddha, and Jack's two cats, Hobbes and Noir.
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